A Drifting Soul

The story of Daithi, a young shaman of the Nioneska prior to the events of A House Of Photographs.


6. Friendships and Lovers

"Daithi? What are you thinking about?" Dominique asked curiously, leaning over Daithi's hammock to try and read Daithi's dreamy expression. "Are you thinking about that girl you have at home?" Laurel. Daithi jerked upright, pulling the hammock above him with his face. He pursed his lips and furrowed his brows. True, he was thinking of a girl, but not Laurel. The girl he thought of had messy curls the color of the night sky and eyes like gems and a fire no one could match. But then Laurel broke into his thoughts; her ashy blonde waves always swaying in a breeze, her gentle eyes that read ever gesture, every word Daithi said, her wisdom and kindness.

"Yes, I um...."

Dominique raised his brows in perplexment. His face was always very expressive and Daithi feared that he saw a hint of disbelief in Dominique's eyes. Then it was replaced with a knowing grin and left him alone to speak with someone outside.

Daithi looked around at his home. Filled with things gathered from the adventures he had heard and asked of, and only one thing of his: the other earring that went to the one that hung from his left ear. It was fair sized and gaudy with colored glass to mimic precious gems. He'd lost it the night before and looked at it, surprised someone had found it. He put it in his ear, then noticed the scent of perfume on it. The same perfume that Corinna wore when she could get it. Daithi stepped out of the caravan and decided to help Bijou with the laundry, as he usually did on their mornings on warm sunny days. He sat on a stool next to her, rolled up his sleeves, grabbed a washing stone, and set to work.

"I see Corinna found your earring for you," Bijou commented. She also had a wisdom to her, much like Dominique, and Daithi wasn't at all surprised. It had been told to him by Bijou that they were first cousins.

"Uh, yeah. Where is she?" He asked curiously as he worked with a shirt that had been worn by each one of them, stretched and loose but soft to the touch.

Bijou noticed the look in Daithi's eyes and muttered with a chuckle "Seems you've learned to live." Then she answered Daithi's question. "She is at mass. She likes to go and listen to the choir. I like the quiet on Sundays. She hoped you'd be awake when she left. Corinna, she likes you."

"W-what?" Daithi dropped the shirt into the water. His cheeks flushed and the earrings felt cold on his ears and he knew they must have turned pink too. Then he squashed the possibility. "No. I am....too grown up for her," he mumbled, thinking of the age difference. "She is full of life and wants excitement. All I want is to see what I can and be content if I can't."

"Ah, that is where you are wrong. You are full of life yourself. You have a light in your eyes. Your smile lights up the room. You are young in the heart at least. Dominique and I have noticed it over the past month or two," Bijou told him rather matter-of-factly. Bijou flicked water at Daithi to try and get him to leave. Then she started to yell at him in Roma, good naturedly, and it was effective. She successfully chased him out of their alley and into the street. Dominique was on the ground laughing.

"Bijou has a spark of her own, eh?" Dominique wheezed between laughing fits. "And she loves to meddle with lives too," he added as he wiped a tear from his eye and stretched his face to ease the ache in his cheeks. Daithi shook his head and chuckled at his friend. Dominique struggled to his feet and shoved Daithi down the street and it rbought to mind all the times Ronan had egged Daithi on to do something. It was a pleasant familiar.

Unsure of where else to go, Daithi wandered the streets of Paris until he found his way back to Notre Dame Cathedral. His curiosity took hold of him again and he dared to creep closer to the steps. The sunshine lit up the rose window and the gargoyles that guarded the grand church. Daring to peek inside, Daithi opened the door a crack and squeezed through so as not to disturb the mass. Not a single head turned his way. So he scooted to the side and looked around. The rainbow of color that was cast on the floor by the sun that shined through the window reminded him of his best clothes and the best clothes that his siblings wore on their seasonal festivals; colorful and vibrant and almost dreamlike. The faint scent of incense hung on the air and the music of a hundred voices joined in song and brought to mind memories of the endless soundtrack of every festival the Nioneksa celebrated, endless voices and nearly one hundred different languages and ways of thinking  while they all accepted one universal truth. But, Daithi remembered, they sung in Latin, a language no one in the Nioneska tribe knew despite how old a people they were and how well educated in the ways of the world. And they sung for their God, someone he was curious about and asked questions from time to time.

Daithi found the mixed emotions he felt well up in his throat. He went to a dark corner and cast for the first time in five years, the last being when he escaped his forced servitude. He didn't do anything fancy, but he wanted to feel like he was home. He wanted the sensation of it, the way it made his heart pound a little harder in his chest, how it made him feel warm and safe. He created a light, a small flame no bigger than that of a candle. His hands were cupped around it so no one would think it was 'witchcraft' as they called it but he held a candle. His brain pulled up memory after memory of him showing off for Laurel, competing with Callum and Sampsa even though only Callum got worked up when Daithi did it. Memories of Siiri scolding him while teaching him to smoke fish and keep it fresh.

From the shadows a hand brushed against his shoulder and made him force his hands together to extinguish the flame that represented his past. Daithi looked up, shocked but afraid to make noise so he sucked in air instead of yelping. He saw Corinna, a shawl over his shoulders and all of her jangly jewelry absent, leaving funny tan lines in her cocoa colored skin. The worry in her face made Daithi try and correct himself. He tried to erase the tightness of his expression and replace it with a surprised and happy smile to say "Oh? I didn't know you were here."

Daithi, what's the matter?" She asked, sitting beside him on the stone floor so she was at his level.

"I-it's just.." Daithi sniffled as quietly as he could, noticing the choir was calmer now, more gentle. "This place....it reminds me of home..."

"You lived in a church?" Corinna joked, trying to get Daithi to crack a smile. He didn't. He turned away and pressed his forehead to the cold stone of the wall and felt the vibrations of every voice that sang out in the church, every person who stirred,  ever inch of the building as it settled. Corinna took one of Daithi's hands in hers and rested her chin on his knee. Then she made his face turn to look at her. "It's okay. You have us now," she crooned. Then she planted a kiss on his cheek, as if it were her last effort to try and brighten up his mood. But when she saw how depressed he truly was, Corinna decided it would be better to leave him be and got up to get out of the cathedral. But he held onto her hand. Daithi gave it a squeeze and ran his thumb over her knuckles. That action, he hoped, conveyed the comfort he found in her and needed in that moment.

Together, they left the cathedral, opening the door wide and spilling sunlight on the floor. In that moment Daithi decided his curiosity would be dealt with on a day that didn't remind him of home.

He followed Corinna to a quiet spot in the square in front of the cathedral. She threw her arms around him and ran her fingers through his hair, and he held her by the waist. His palms grew sweaty again and his cheeks burned. Beads of sweat rolled down his back, over the bumps and dips that made up the geography of his scars. Something in him switched on. He stepped back a half step to be able to look Corinna in the eyes....and kissed her. He pressed his lips to hers and felt the heat explode from his lips and engulf his entire body. His fingers ran through her hair then embraced her cheek. Her lips were cool and soft against his and in that moment, he didn't care how much pain he was going through he just wanted to feel adrenaline and euphoria. And he felt an intense happiness in his bravery, triumphing over his fear and his past. When they broke away he was breathless. For the first time that day, his mind was blank, lost in the heaven that was that moment.


Bijou brought home bread and a bottle of cheap wine for them all. Corinna brought out some cheese she'd stashed, kissing Daithi when she leaned over the table before settling into her hammock beside Bijou. Dominique nudged Daithi and winked while stacking a slice of cheese on his bread and taking a big bite. Bijou proceeded to bicker with Corinna over one thing or another while they ate.

After a time, the bickering became too much for either of the women to bear and Corinna wedged herself between Daithi and Dominique. From there, they drank and reminisced over the past weeks, Dominique joking about the struggles they endured when they moved from the alley to a place by the Seine. Bijou pointed out how well her and Corinna were doing dancing near the cathedral and even pulled out a new shawl she'd bought for herself from the tailor down the street from the baker where she bought the bread. Daithi talked about his adventures exploring the cathedral while the priests were busy at prayer or maintaining it. He truly loved the architecture, marveling at its age and the amount of effort that had to have been put into its creation.

When the wine was gone as well as their voices, they all went to sleep. Corinna curled up on Daithi's chest and slept on top of him. He didn't think much of it. In fact, since it had begun, it seemed almost too perfect. He sighed contently and drifted off. But shuffling outside woke him up. His eyes took a second to adjust to the darkness. He vaguely saw the outline of Corinna on top of him and Bijou across from them, and Dominique's arm spilling over the side of his hammock. But the shuffling didn't stop. In fact, Daithi's hackles rose as he realized he heard voices.

"Corinna, Dominique!" He whispered anxiously. "Wake up! Someone's outside!" But none of them stirred. The fear spread through Daithi's entire body and instinct urged him to run. His scars ached and his fists clenched. The sound of wood splintering, like the crash of thunder made him jerk upright and awoke them all. Soldiers brandishing their swords, two breaking down their door and three outside. Daithi jumped up, not realizing that he'd picked up Corinna in the process.

The soldiers grabbed Dominique by the collar and dragged him to the floor with a thud. He must have hit his head because he didn't move an inch after the impact. Suddenly the caravan, the meaning of home and warmth with it's red rugs on the wall and vibrant but peeling paint, became a prison and the definition of death. The flash of the light on swords forced Daithi back to battle. Before his very eyes was the battlefield he fought on with Ronan; the canons exploding with a thunderous roar, the screams of those found and killed in the dust and smoke, the sensation of a bullet ripping through his flesh and the blood that poured from the opening.

Corinna jumped to her feet and managed to grab one of the soldiers' swords and swing it. But they backed out and began to force the cart forward. Daithi found Bijou under his arm, sobbing and staring out the window in horror. Corinna fell to her knees, holding the sword limply in one hand and brushed the hair out of Dominique's face. Daithi stole a glance out the window and saw nothing but water. They were pushed into the Seine.

They didn't hear the sound of a splash. Water flooded their home in seconds. Daithi couldn't see a thing but he knew an unconscious man didn't stand a chance. He refused to take a breath like Bijou and Corinna did. He left his lungs empty and searched the bottom with his hands. When he found cloth and pulled to see if it held weight, he swam up. Daithi didn't dare swim to the nearest shore. He made his way to the bridge to hide. Rubbing his eyes free of water, Daithi watched the girls swim to the first short, fearing they would get caught by the caravan. Daithi saw the soldiers waiting, cackling and joking about how the "gypsies needed a bath to wash off the filth."

The sound of shackles and cuffs clinking and clicking bounced off the bridge and rang in Daithi's ears as if they were next to him. Dominique gave a cough and began to struggle as he awoke. Daithi forced his hand over his friend's mouth and held his own breath when he saw the soldiers' heads snap their way to see what made the sound. Doing the only thing he could think of, Daithi dove down and did his best to cast. Bubbles of air formed over his nose and mouth, then he made one for Dominique. They waited there for what seemed an eternity. Daithi's hands ached from holding Dominique down as he struggled to surface. Dominique only realized the magic at play after he struggled for a few minutes. He tried to look through the murky water to see the source, but they remained there for a longer time still.

Daithi ran everything through his head. If he had the choice he would have died. He endured every memory. His life flashed in front of his eyes like a movie. Every wonderful and every painful memory. When it was finished he feared he was dead when all he saw was darkness. He feared there was no heaven that he was raised to believe in, no spirits running rampant, no ancestors gone for eons there to greet him. Only blackness.

His grip went slack and Dominique broke through the glassy surface of the water into the embrace of dawn. Taking a breath air, he searched the choppy waves he created for Daithi. Almost instantly, he plunged into the water and found Daithi's stiff body and brought him up. Daithi coughed and sputtered when his magic failed suddenly and he inhaled water. The sunlight that peeked over the houses and painted the sky with pinks and oranges brought Daithi back to reality. 

Together, the two swam down the river away from the remains of their caravan, sink to the bottom of the Seine. 

"Where's Bijou? Corinna?!" Dominique shouted. Daithi leapt onto Dominique and covered his mouth with a scarf. 

"Soldiers!" Daithi hissed. Dominique's eyes widened, exploding into gold from the morning sun, reflecting how alarmed and terrified he was. "Keep quiet!" Daithi demanded through clenched teeth. 

Dominique nodded then mumbled under Daithi's hands. When Daithi let go Dominique spoke quickly and quietly. "If we follow them we can save the girls!" Daithi had no choice but to agree. He cared for them both, Corinna more so in a bizarre way.

They ran along the shore and scaled the smooth walls, struggling with their drenched bodies. Daithi was grateful that Dominique didn't ask about what he'd done when they hid under the water. They hid in the shadows that draped the alleys of the city in the early hours of morning, watching the soldiers as closely as they could. Dominique stopped suddenly in horror when he realized what was to take place in the square in front of Notre Dame. Daithi hadn't seen a stage quite like it and didn't share the same fear right away. But as the crowd gathered around it and the sunlight draped itself on them all, Daithi caught sight of the nooses hanging, waiting for their victims.

The soldiers forced the girls onto the stage, the wood creaking beneath their feet and the water dripping off them with a tap tap

Dominique's fingers dug into the flesh of Daithi's shoulder. Daithi winced but his focus was on what the judge had to say. 

"These women have been accused of witchcraft, confirmed by many of you. They are gypsy vermin besides and need to be removed from our fair city!" He said. 

Daithi couldn't hear anything else, didn't want to hear anything else. Instead he whispered "Dominique, I'm going to distract them. You get Corinna and Bijou and take them out of Paris. Never ever come back. Do you understand?" 

Dominique reared back and looked at Daithi in angry shock. He knew the tone in his voice hinted at something else. "What are you planning?! Where will we find you?!" 

"You won't," Daithi growled. His thoughts went faster than he could express them. He would cause a stir. He would provide a window of escape. Paris was a big city and it would be difficult to find three people while on the hunt for a witch. Then he turned to look at the suspicion and fear in Dominique's face. Dominique shook his head in disbelief but knew there was no changing this decision. He threw his arms around Daithi and clapped a hand on his back.

"Jusqu'á nous rencontrerons encore, mon amie"

"Until we meet again, my friend," Daithi echoed.

Then he pushed Dominique into a safe place for him to wait, where the girls would see him and where he was safe from the guards for a short time. Daithi sprung into action when Bijou and Corinna had the nooses wrapped around their necks. Corinna spit at them and kicked at them. 

"These withces shall pay for their crimes. May God have mercy on their souls!"

"STOP!" Daithi leapt past the soldiers and onto the stage. He surveyed his surroundings and shouted at the top of his lungs. "You accuse them of magic?! You look down on them for what they are? The color of their skin?!" He cried. 

Soldiers began to shove through the crowd. Corinna shook her head as if she could wave it away like a bad dream. Her eyes welled up with tears though she didn't know it.

Daithi's frustration built. "What proof do you have?! Can they change shape?! Can they do this?!" Then in a moment of blind rage, he cast a lick of flame from his fingertips to the ropes that held Bijou and Corinna. It burnt through in seconds and left the two girls unharmed, but in shock. Bijou was struggling to her feet and Corinna stared in utter disbelief an a hint of fear. Daithi smiled shyly then returned to the crowd. "You want someone to persecute out of fear?! Then come find me!" In that instant, he made the decision: He shifted and morphed. His teeth grew long and sharp, his hair grew and covered his entire body, face elongated, and he fell onto his knees. Daithi had changed into a wolf, his fur a copper hue with a white patch on his chin and down his chest. He howled and leapt into the crowd, shaking off his clothes that didn't fit. He slipped beneath a guard's legs and growled ferociously. He tried to look as menacing as possible. Daithi charged into people and snapped at them.

When he passed by the stage again he saw Corinna and Bijou still stuck to where they stood. He even growled at them to try and spur them into action. But he spied Dominique sneaking behind them and tugging at their skirts. Daithi laughed a wolfy, growly laugh and tried to manipulate his magic even more. It physically hurt. He even yelped as he tried to make himself look larger, hungrier, more dangerous. His growl was like metal on metal and stones thrown in and he stood as tall as a man. He threw guards and soldiers to the side with one swipe of a paw.

When Daithi lost sight of the gypsies, he ran out of the square. He could just barely smell them through the fear and knew he had to lead the attackers in the opposite direction. His claws left ruts in the street as he ran and he felt exhilarated when he heard the clunk of their hurried footsteps to chase after him.

As he weaved and twisted through the streets and alleyways he kept coming across a familiar scent. It made him nervous. Daithi glanced around as if something was brave enough to follow him. Once or twice he forced himself to circle back to break through the cluster of armor clad fighters and give them a good scare. It made his blood pound in the best way. Lost in the primal instinct to kill, Daithi took one soldier's arm in his teeth and whipped him around like a ragdoll, sending him flying into his companions and hearing the crunch of bones. During these risks, he felt the sting of spears and blades. But his magic had affected him so much that he didn't realize he'd nearly doubled in size and thought they were merely splinters. But his blood drained from him faster than he ran.

Daithi noticed the trail of blood behind him when he was on the outskirts of Paris and he had shrunk back to the size of a normal wolf. He panted heavily, his lungs burning as well as his feet. Bare paw pads were not made for stone. With effort and venomous sting, Daithi changed back into a man. He heard steps behind him as his vision blurred. He felt rain on his skin and his flesh broke out in goosebumps. With a human nose, Daithi could barely make out the scent that he caught during his bold escape. It was of nature.....and jerky....and family....

The stranger removed his cloak and draped it over Daithi before forcing him to his feet and giving him support. Daithi's forehead fell against the man's jaw and he felt scratchy stubble and a puff of air. Then he blacked out.

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